Clarks and UGG unveil sustainable shoe innovations

Pictured: UGG's new 'Plant Power' platform shoes

The shoes in Clarks’ new ‘Origin’ range have been designed to reduce waste and improve recyclability; they contain zero glue and are made using five pieces, each of which can be dissembled at the end-of-life stage.

The five pieces are an outsole made from 51% recycled content; a footbed containing recycled ethylene-vinyl acetate, recycled rubber and a responsibly sourced sheepskin liner; a responsibly sourced suede upper; 100% recycled polyester laces and mono-material nylon thread. This latter component is the replacement for the glues that often make footwear challenging to recycle.

As well as improving recyclability and reducing the material footprint of the shoes in upstream processes, Clarks claims that the redesign has also reduced product-related emissions. It has not released life-cycle emissions data for the whole shoe, but studies from bodies including the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have evidenced how recycled materials have a lower CO2e footprint than their virgin counterparts. The virgin leather components, meanwhile, are sourced from tanneries that have formally committed to reducing their climate impact.

Clarks’ chief marketing officer Tara McRae said: “We are known for the quality and durability of our shoes which inherently means we support sustainable fashion.

“But we still have a lot to work on. We are on a journey to becoming more sustainable every day, from sourcing more sustainable materials to supporting better working conditions for the people who make our shoes. Our brand-new shoe, ‘Origin’ is just one great example of what we can achieve as a business, designing for a more sustainable future.”

Globally, 300 million pairs of shoes are estimated to be thrown away each year. In the UK, the redistribution rate and recycling rate is low, mainly due to a lack of infrastructure and workers to process the products, given that the usual combination of glues, rubber, vinyl and leather components make them challenging to recycle. Some 85% of the shoes discarded in the UK each year will end up in landfills or incinerators.

Plant Power

In related news, UGG has this week debuted a collection of shoes incorporating plant-based, renewable materials that are certified as carbon neutral. Called ‘Plant Power’, the collection includes fluffy platform shoes, fluffy sandals and chukka boots.

The fluffy platforms and sandals incorporate foam outsoles made from sugarcane, rather than the traditional petroleum-based materials. UGG claims that this material is carbon-neutral, in that the plant removes CO2 from the atmosphere while growing, and that it is less water-intense than many alternative crops. The fluffy components are made using TENCEL Lyocell – an innovative material made by processing wood pulp into cellulosic fibres. Trees grown to produce the material are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

The chukka boots, meanwhile, have a TENCEL Lyocell lining and an upper made from a blend of cotton and hemp certified as sustainable. The soles are made in small batches from LACTAE HEVEA latex. In the production of this material, no trees are cut down.

UGG’s overarching sustainability strategy, Feel Good, details commitments to reach at least 35% sustainable material content across its entire product portfolio by 2027. Materials classed as ‘sustainable’ are those that are recycled or repurposed; those that are plant-based or bio-based and those that are certified. At the same time, UGG will strive to improve product longevity and recyclability.

The brand has already achieved 100% certified leather through the Leather Working Group and 98% wool that is repurposed or by-product. Leather and wool are UGG’s most-used materials. It has also worked with TENCEL to develop a plush wool and Lyocell blend.  

Full information about UGG parent brand Deckers’ sustainability targets and progress towards them to date can be found here.

Sarah George

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